San Francisco Chronicle
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 16, 2013
A weird mix of the refreshing and the dispiriting, "Kick-Ass 2" is appealing in its brutal honesty and repellent in its honest brutality. Writer-director Jeff Wadlow establishes a premise and follows it without compromise, but the trail leads to a very ugly place. In the end, the journey wasn't really worth it.
Yet, here and there, there is much to enjoy and even respect. The superheroine Hit Girl (aka Mindy) is in high school now, trying to navigate the social waters and discover who she is when she's not killing people. The stakes are extreme, but the emotions are familiar; and Chloe Grace Moretz brings out Mindy's doubt and inner conflict.
Clearly, somebody (the director, for one) cared about the performances. For example, there's Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Chris, the mobster's son who longs to be a tough guy. In "Kick-Ass 2," he takes a sick turn in the aftermath of his father's death. He decides he wants to become an evil superhero. He devises a costume made up partly of his late mother's sado-masochistic leather gear and takes on the ridiculous and unprintable name of The Motherf-----.
The name is perfect for him, exactly what an idiot might think of as cool, but just because Chris really is an idiot doesn't mean that he isn't truly, madly and deeply evil. The result is not only an entertaining character, but one that's practically a statement. Chris is a lightweight and a joke, and yet he's dangerous, and he's genuinely destructive. That's a combination we don't often see in movies, but it's one all-too familiar to history.
The title character, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is still in high school. He's not tough, but he wants to be; and he hopes Hit Girl will give him lessons. To further his career as a do-gooder, he joins up with a band of would-be superheroes, people as powerless as himself who want to make a difference. The story of "Kick-Ass 2" involves the group of evil superheroes, led by Chris, targeting Kick-Ass's new group for death.
At a certain point, "Kick-Ass 2" must leave the set-up stage and start delivering on the action. It has to move from depictions of Mindy's high school angst and Chris's psychotic plans and show the outright war that it keeps promising. And that's where the movie begins to sour, because all of a sudden a film that's funny in a caustic and outrageous way becomes an action movie that's nasty in an outrageous and violent way. Major characters are stabbed in the neck or run through with a sword, and while, in one sense, the harshness of the comedy is a match for the harshness of the violence, somehow laughing one second and cringing the next doesn't make for a pleasurable experience — especially as it all ultimately lands in a zone of pointlessness.
Jim Carrey, who does nice character work in "Kick-Ass 2" as a former mob enforcer who got religion, has since disowned the movie on moral terms, because of the violence. The violence just might make audiences disown it, too, not because they'll disapprove, but simply because they won't want to sit through it.